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Critical Reception: Microsoft/Bungie's Halo 3: ODST

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Bungie's Halo 3: ODST, which our survey of online reviews describes as "a bold departure from the franchise formula."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Bungie's Halo 3: ODST, which reviews describe as "a bold departure from the franchise formula." Halo 3: ODST currently earns a score of 84 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Adam Pavlacka at Worthplaying scores ODST at 9.5 out of 10. "Halo 3: ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) is a new chapter in the Halo saga that lets gamers experience events leading up to the epic story told in Halo 3 through the eyes of a new hero in the Halo universe," he explains. "The stand-alone expansion extends the Halo 3 experience with hours of new campaign excursions and multiplayer gameplay." "For a game that started life as an expansion pack and was produced in a mere 14 months, Halo 3: ODST is an impressive piece of work," Pavlacka praises. "It packs a level of content on par with titles that have been in development twice as long and never gives the player a feeling of being rushed." ODST introduces a number of new features and changes that make for a different experience than Halo 3's. "Master Chief is gone, as is his fully rechargeable health bar and ability to dual-wield weapons," Pavlacka writes. "AI seems to have improved, especially on the part of your teammates, so they no longer feel like mere cannon fodder." Pavlacka notes that the extra polish makes for a worthy purchase. "Thanks to a combination of well-designed levels, a solid story line, addicting multiplayer and top-notch voice acting, Halo 3: ODST presents a package that is even more compelling than its namesake," he concludes. "The game is not only better than Halo 3; it is the best Halo title to date." 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish gives ODST a grade of A-. "ODST has its share of flaws," Parish admits, "but it's a noteworthy creation simply for the way in which it unites the two different faces of the franchise -- campaign and multiplayer -- into something that should appeal to both sets of fans." Parish warns that ODST offers a short single-player campaign with less substance than players might expect. "The final game feels like something more than an add-on, but the campaign is definitely shorter than in any previous chapter in the series," he notes. "More crucially, ODST adds very little to the Halo 'sandbox'; aside from a single new alien race (which plays a strictly passive role in combat) and a few new weapon variants, everything you see, shoot, and utilize comes straight from Halo 3." ODST's new multiplayer mode is more successful, however. "While Firefight isn't a new idea, precisely, it's done up in impressive style here," Parish explains. "The basic premise is simple enough: One to four players face off against endless waves of Covenant in a closed arena, playing for points and struggling to survive for as long as possible." Parish continues: "It's not player-versus-player, but rather players-versus-growing-odds, and it's incredibly addictive. Like many of the best games, it's hard to explain precisely what makes Firefight so good; my most powerful impressions were borne of experiences of the moment, situations and actions that would fall flat when put into words. But the sense of teamwork Firefight creates is unparalleled, a perfect complement to the campaign's focus on the ODST squad." "ODST does suffer for the lack of genuinely new elements it adds to the Halo universe, and the campaign mode is a bit brief," Parish notes. "Yet between the enormous scope of New Mombasa, the unique atmosphere, and the brilliance of Firefight mode, I can easily see myself pouring more time into ODST than any other Halo to date. At Games Radar, Charlie Barratt scores Halo 3: ODST at 7 out of 10. "Are you hoping for more Halo 3?" he asks. "Are more missions and more multiplayer enough? If so, then ODST is the answer. You will definitely not be disappointed." However: "What if the talk about detective characters, film noir settings and gritty close-quarters combat have you anticipating a bold departure from the Bungie formula? Then yeah, you might be in for a bit of a letdown." Barratt finds that ODST lacks the narrative punch of previous entries in the series. "Sadly, the Rookie is as silent and empty a vessel as Master Chief. Each time he discovers a clue to his friends' location, though, you'll jump into their unique and colorful shoes for a flashback mission," he says. "Compared to the sweeping galactic saga that is the original Halo trilogy, ODST's plot is decidedly small-scale. Intimate. You won't experience any earth-shattering revelations, or be blown away by too many breathtaking setpieces." "Still, ODST will surprise you," Barratt continues. "We've been in Banshee dogfights before, but never in the midst of a rain-drenched metropolis at night, with glittering windows and glowing exhaust trails transforming the entire scene into something out of Tron. We've taken down a Covenant dropship before, but never had to destroy three or four Covenant dropships in a row, on foot, while trapped at the top of a skyscraper with a handheld missile launcher." "In many ways, Halo 3: ODST marks a bold departure from the franchise formula, with story, characters, atmosphere and multiplayer that are refreshingly, surprisingly different," Barratt concludes. "Due to a short campaign and overly familiar gameplay, however, it fails to escape the 'expansion pack' label."

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